Are There Two Distinct Forms of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy?

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Patients with chronic trauma-related brain disease might progress in two unique but distinct ways, according to a study that examined prospective and postmortem data. One seems to be characterized by mood and behavioral disorders, while the other is related to cognitive impairment.

The study examined 36 patients with chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), and found that nearly all of the subjects suffered from a combination of cognitive, mood, and behavioral disorders. Cognitive impairment was especially universal throughout the patients.

But, almost two-thirds of the patients developed mood and behavioral disturbances at a young age, normally followed by a young death. As Charles Bankhead from MedPage Today reports, the rest of the subjects were characterized by primarily cognitive impairment, which tended to appear later, and tended to be associated with death at an older age. The study was published in the online edition of Neurology, by Robert A. Stern of Boston University, and his colleagues.

Stern told MedPage Today, “At this point, CTE can be diagnosed only when someone passes away, postmortem. […] This is our first look at what the disease might look like in individuals who are still alive.”

The authors did note that due to small sample size, they couldn’t say whether the study is representative of all patients with CTE, however, they attempted to bolster their sample size as much as they could given the restraints of examining deceased patients with a disease only able to be diagnosed in autopsy. They chose 36 adult males with pathologically confirmed CTE at the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy brain bank, all of which were athletes with no comorbid neurodegenerative or motor neuron disease.

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